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Buying a Used Car After the Storm, Buyer Beware

2:53 PM, Oct 24, 2018

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Tamika Cody

After every catastrophic storm, an influx of used cars hit the market. More than 212,000 vehicles branded as having flood damage by a state Department of Motor Vehicles ended up being resold and back on the roads, according to a 2013 study conducted by the vehicle history researchers over at CarFax.

The report found nearly two-thirds of flood-damaged cars are on the roads in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Buying a Used Car After the Storm, Buyer Beware

If a car was in a flood, it's usually written off as a complete loss and reported as salvage on the car's title. However, there are times a flood-damaged automobile will trickle on to a used car lot. And if you’re shopping around for a used car and you end up purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle, you're bound to have electrical and mechanical trouble.

The following are four tips that should help you identify a flood-damaged car before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

Tip 1: Look for the term “recycler facility” in your research.

When you pull information from CarFax also look for language that says "vehicle at automotive recycler facility , vehicle was sold as a whole unit." Most car dealers miss this one.

"Recycler Facility" means the car went through an auto recycling center, where totaled vehicles usually end up.

Tips 2: Double-check with the NICB.

Cross-check the car's Vehicle Identification Number, VIN, with the National Insurance Crime Bureau's website to see if the vehicle is listed as salvage.

But what happens if it's not there?

Tip 3: Triple-check with vehicle report sites.

Check the VIN with CarFax and AutoCheck. You're looking to see if the car is listed as flood-damaged.

But what if you come up dry?

Tip 4: Check again.

Check for watermarks on the inside and outside of the engine. The accompanying video provides a full example of how and where to find:

  • Damp upholstery
  • Dirt buildup
  • Mold
  • Odors
  • Rust

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